Back in the 50’s in Brooklyn you were on easy street in the summers if you knew someone who had a house with a stoop. Sitting on the stoop was what we did for entertainment. My first girlfriend’s parents had a house with a stoop on Avenue Z, just down the street from Old Man Trump’s office. We’d see him with his smug little asshole son walk by all the time. The son, Donald Duck, was around the same age as we were. He was always in a suit and tie. No one I knew was getting a suit or tie for an another couple of years ’til it was time for the bar mitzvah. But Trump paraded up and down Avenue Z with one already. The family had an aura of criminality around them— always. No one even had to remark on it; that’s how obvious it was. We never saw Fred Jr or Robert, just Fred with Donald Duck, two crooks, father and son. Trump managed to evade accountability for a life of crime decade after decade after decade— until now.
Yesterday, Trump— the most corrupt president in history— made his first appearance at the federal court house in Miami to be booked and arraigned— no mug shot, only digital, ink-free finger printing, no perp walk, no bond… I was surprised he wasn’t signing autographs. There were more reporters than supporters present. Charlie Sykes reminded his readers that it was “worth reminding ourselves that everything happening is a result of everything we have known about Trump for years. If only we had been warned. ‘What makes it so ridiculous that we’re here and we’re in a situation where there are people in my own party who are blaming [the] DOJ,’ Christie said in an en fuego townhall meeting last night. ‘How about blame him? He did it,’ Christie said. ‘He took documents he wasn’t supposed to take. He kept them when he was asked [for] them back. They got a grand jury subpoena. He refused to comply. They raided his home finally because he refused to comply.’… A vengeful Trump swore that he’d get even with Joe Biden on Monday as he boarded a private jet to Miami where he is set to face his second criminal indictment this year. The ex-president ranted on Truth Social that he planned to use the power of the federal government, should he be elected to the presidency in 2024, to personally target Mr Biden’s family.”
“I WILL APPOINT A REAL SPECIAL ‘PROSECUTOR’ TO GO AFTER THE MOST CORRUPT PRESIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE USA, JOE BIDEN, THE ENTIRE BIDEN CRIME FAMILY, & ALL OTHERS INVOLVED WITH THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR ELECTIONS, BORDERS, & COUNTRY ITSELF!” fumed Trump in an all-caps rant posted around noon.
“It was a stunning declaration that throws the future of America’s justice system into question as such a move would wholly eliminate the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice, should he be successful. You can’t say we have not been warned.”
Meanwhile, Señor T is playing the victim— and his unwarned base is eating it up— the “Deep State” is doing this to the 21st Century Jesus Christ. Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher, Jonathan Swan had the formula down pat: “Play the victim. Blame the “Deep State.” Claim selective prosecution. Punish Republicans who stray for disloyalty. Dominate the news. Ply small donors for cash.” They’re almost starting to ignore Meatball Ron now. This indictment scandal is all about Trump vs Biden. The new ad from the Trumpanzee SuperPAC— pure projection:
“For Trump, who has long blurred public-relations woes and legal peril, his 2024 campaign began in part as a shield against prosecution, and victory at the ballot box would amount to the ultimate acquittal. Still, few political strategists in either party see running while under indictment as a way to appeal to the independent voters who are crucial to actually winning the White House… Politically, Trump has continued to consolidate Republican support… Legally, the specificity and initial evidence presented in the charging document that was unsealed on Friday showed the gravity of the case.” And that’s a problem for a guy no reputable lawyers want to work for.
Yesterday, Eric Levitz noted that the concept of equal justice under the law has been stretched a bit for Trump. The DOJ went easy on him for political reasons. Poor, conservatives… they’re tasked with “explaining why it is actually good for an ex-president to illegally keep U.S. atomic secrets lying around his golf club, show off secret military plans to friends as if they were souvenirs, and then refuse to return those documents upon the government’s request.” Lucky the GOP’s decades-long plan to gut public education has worked so well— especially in red states and rural America. Because, after all, “by now, Republicans are well versed in the art of Trump apologetics, so they know better than to try to defend the mogul’s actions on the merits. Rather, they have reverted to a time-honored alternative to justifying the unjustifiable, arguing that whatever Trump did or did not do, his accusers are politically motivated and hypocritical and that is the real scandal. As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy explained to Fox News on Friday, Trump’s indictment is ‘going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today. And we’re not going to stand for it.’”
Yesterday, The Bulwark published a run down by conservative Republican Mona Charen of which Republicans know the indictments are actually devastating. So far, the base doesn’t care at all. But… as time goes on, insists Charen, “Voters’ reactions will be influenced by Republican leaders and media personalities. The pattern we’ve all witnessed over the past eight years is that those ‘influencers’ have rallied around Trump, minimized and ‘whatabouted’ every outrage, and offered no permission for the rank and file to consider that there might just be something more than politics in the accusations against Trump. The base has accordingly dismissed every allegation as politically motivated and the politicians, in turn, have pointed to the opinions of ‘the people’ as justification for sticking with Trump themselves. Rinse and repeat. That minuet continued after the indictment was announced, but this time there were some interesting dissenters. Yes, the usual lemmings, Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik, and more, leapt from their chairs to offer bad-faith excuses for Trump… Most of the talking heads on Fox and other right-wing outlets decried the ‘weaponization’ of the justice system and many, including some members of Congress, went even further and urged violent resistance.”
So who did Charen did up among GOP influencers to push back? William Barr, who Trump has since denigrated as a “gutless pig,” the name by which all MAGAts will henceforth always think of him. There have been more though.
Law professor Jonathan Turley has been a reliable Trump shill for some time, and even as recently as the night the indictment was announced, he was predicting confidently that “Trump could run on pardoning himself. They may have given him a rather unique campaign slogan.” But on Friday, after reading the indictment, Turley was sounding chastened. Allowing that “we haven’t heard from the other side,” Turley acknowledged that “It is an extremely damning indictment... Some of the evidence is coming from his former counsel, and these are very damaging statements made against him. It may be hard to move those.” Referring to the photos of boxes stacked in various locations, he said, "It’s really breathtaking. Obviously, this is mishandling. Putting classified documents into ballrooms and bathrooms... borders on the bizarre.” And he cautioned the Trump attorneys (yet to be named), “The Trump team should not fool itself. These are hits below the water line... It’s overwhelming in its details.”
Former Rep. Trey Gowdy wasn’t pulling any punches either. Asked by Fox’s Shannon Bream whether some of the evidence in the indictment might never be seen by a jury, Gowdy said, “Well, the most damning piece of evidence to me is the audiotape. I mean, you want to talk about consciousness of guilt? You want to talk about knowledge and intent? I mean, those are the darlings of a prosecutor’s nursery, and that came from President Trump’s own mouth.”
Alan Dershowitz has embarrassed himself by his past Trump advocacy, including during an impeachment trial, and yet he too was awed by the strength of the indictment, which he said was “stronger than many people anticipated.”
The “most important” and “most difficult for Trump” he argued, were the paragraphs describing the audiotapes.
Paragraph 34 is his own voice. ‘See as president I could have declassified it’ holding up a paper. ‘Now I can’t. You know this is still a secret.’ It may not be a smoking gun but it’s a gun and it’s a very important piece of evidence and it’s enough to convict… Trump of knowingly possessing unauthorized classified material… Donald Trump has a lot to worry about.
National Review would not, it’s safe to say, be mistaken for an anti-Trump publication. They fall more into the anti-anti-Trump camp much of the time. But in the wake of this indictment, they’ve run a number of scorching essays. Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, had no patience for the Trump as victim narrative:
Now, since we’re hearing a lot, and we’re going to hear a lot more, about selective prosecution, about the sense that the ‘boxes hoax’ is the ‘biggest witch hunt of all time,’ understand this: The evidence of this soliloquy— wherein it was Trump-splained that a ‘great job’ by a lawyer entails making incriminating evidence disappear and taking the fall for it so the client escapes jeopardy— does not come from Donald Trump’s enemies.
These are not the people who want to take him out. This is not Joe Biden, Liz Cheney, congressional Democrats, or the ‘fake news’ media. It’s not even RINO Republicans or that (apparently) fiercest of political combatants, ‘Ada’ Hutchinson. No, the evidence comes from Trump’s lawyers. The people who were trying to minimize his criminal exposure and push back against his destructive tendencies. The people who were trying to help him… If you tell me I need to look the other way on that because Hillary Clinton got a pass, I respectfully suggest that you’ve lost your way.
An article by National Review contributor Jeffrey Blehar was even less forgiving:
Trump is nailed dead to rights, and what matters most of all is that it’s not on some technical offense. What he was doing, before only a physical raid on Mar-a-Lago stopped this madness, turns out to have been less an act of mere carelessness than an active threat to United States national security, one fueled solely by Trump’s demented behavior and sense of self-entitlement.
Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center was not a Trump apologist, but he’s an influential conservative legal analyst and he was at pains, post-indictment, to debunk the argument some were floating that the Presidential Records Act somehow permitted Trump to do what he did. He tweeted, “I marvel at various leaps people (including, I'm sorry to see, people I like) are making in claiming this case means that [the] Presidential Records Act gives Trump protection against criminal prosecution for allegedly retaining (and lying about retaining) classified materials.” Subtweeting Jordan and others, he concluded: “There is nothing in text or history of [the] Presidential Records Act that supports [the] notion that it provides some sort of substitute regime for former presidents that displaces criminal laws on classified materials. Torturing a district-court ruling doesn't change that.”
That's pretty thin gruel if they’re thinking about rebuilding a Conservative party on the foundations of the crumbling Magadonian GOP. Speaking of which... Paul Ryan: "I want to win. And if we nominate Trump, we’re gonna lose." You think? Is there no one in the Wisconsin delegation who still takes your calls?
Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, hit it out of the park with his analysis of trump's low-energy bravado yesterday: “He’s scared shitless. This is the way he compensates for that. He gives people the appearance he doesn’t care by doing this. For the first time in his life, it looks like he’s being held accountable. Up until this point in his life, it’s like, I’m not going to pay you; take me to court. He’s never been held accountable before.”